The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
Serving knife
  • Serving knife
  • Unknown Artist / Maker
  • Italy
  • c. 1350
  • Iron or steel and ivory
  • Length: 22.8 cm
    Width: 2.9 cm, at shoulder
    Width: 5 cm, widest part
    Weight: 0.12 kg
  • Maker's mark
  • A887
  • European Armoury I
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Serving knife, with a handle of walrus ivory of oblong section widening slightly towards the pommel; carved in high relief with the figure of a lion holding a small dog in its paws; thin, flat blade, pointed with curved edge and a maker's mark.

    Italian, about 1350 (?)

    Viollet-le-Duc II, 76-8; Uhlemann, Armi antiche, 1967, pp. 3-26, fig. 7.

    Provenance: Louis Carrand (?) (...un autre couteau à manche d' ivoire du XIVe siècle, de trois cents francs; receipted bill, 13 April, 1867; Comte de Nieuwerkerke.

    A like serving knife is in the Carrand Collection in the Bargello, Florence (Sangiorgi, pl. 80), and another is in the Musée de Cluny, Paris. One was in the Earl of Londesborough's Collection (Fairholt, Misc. Graphica, pl. XXIII), with the lion devouring a monster.

    The authenticity of this knife has been doubted by the late Mr. C.R. Beard in an article in the Connoisseur, April, 1938, where he compares it with other knives of the same kind formerly in the Zschille and Carmichael Collections (sold Christie's, 1902, lot 6), and a pair in the Louvre. In his opinion these examples have been made by adapting the handles of ivory gravoirs of the 14th century, of the kind represented by a complete specimen in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Longhurst, Cat. of Carvings in Ivory, II, p. 50), to fit genuine knife blades of the 14th century. The forger has taken as his pattern the authentic knives (with hafts of similar form topped with animals, like those in the Bargello) in the former Spitzer Collection (vol. III, Coutelerie, no. 1, and sale, 1893, lot 2315). Mr. Beard believed that the tapering of the haft and a slight tilt to the pommel betrays a gravoir origin, although the forger has done his bet to modify such traits; whereas a more solid a symmetrical shape denotes the genuine knife-haft. He suspects the hand of Carrand père, whose skill as a restorer has been alluded to above (see Introduction), in the assembling of these attractive pastiches.